Lenovo ThinkPad X12 First Impressions

If you’re a 2-in-1 fan who is tired of waiting for Microsoft to get its Surface Pro act together, Lenovo may have just the PC for you. The ThinkPad X12 is what the firm calls a detachable—that is, a Tablet PC with a detachable keyboard cover—and it may be just what the doctor ordered.

That said, let me start with my only major gripe right up front: Those bezels. Granted, compared to Surface Pro 7, they’re not particularly galling. But compared to the ARM-based Surface Pro X and, more important, to most premium portable PCs these days, the X12 has anachronistically large bezels. I was a bit surprised by that.

But now that that criticism is out of the way, I can tell you that the ThinkPad X12 improves on the Surface Pro lineup in several important ways. Key among them is its backlit, detachable folio keyboard, which is stiffer and provides an even better typing experience than Surface Pro. It also includes the legendary ThinkPad dual pointing system, with both a TrackPoint nubbin and a glass precision touchpad. It’s early days yet, but it seems fantastic.

Like many ThinkPads, the X12 utilizes a magnesium alloy body and comes in the traditional ThinkPad black color. It’s immediately recognizable as a ThinkPad, visually and from a build quality perspective. It has a reasonably thin and wedged profile at .34 inches thick, compared to .28 inches for Surface Pro X and .33 inches for Surface Pro 7. Add the folio keyboard cover and the thickness is just .57 inches.

It’s quite portable too, at just 1.67 pounds if you omit the folio keyboard cover, so it’s a bit lighter than either Surface Pro. That said, with the folio keyboard cover, it’s 2.4 pounds, which I suspect is just north of either Surface Pro.

As with Surface Pro, the X12 features a built-in kickstand. It’s rock-solid, as one should expect.

And you can tilt this sucker all the way back, just like Surface Pro.

Lenovo includes a Precision Pen with the X12, and this peripheral supports 4,096 level of pressure, tilt detection, a configurable button, and can attach magnetically to the X12 directly; you can also more securely tether it to the folio keyboard cover using a built-in loop. It appears to be a bit smaller than Surface Pen, which I consider to be the standard for such things.

The display is just 12.3-inches, and, yes, I can easily imagine a larger display in that body, but here we are. It’s a Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) IPS panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio and Gorilla Glass 5 for protection, and it is brilliantly bright, throwing off 400 nits of light. Of course, both Surface Pro models provide much higher resolution displays and an ideal 3:2 aspect ratio, but at this display size, I think the X12’s resolution is ideal.

From an audio-video perspective, the X12 has you covered with dual stereo speakers back by Dolby Audio Premium and its automatic sound profiles for different types of listening needs. There’s a set of dual-array microphones for video conferencing, and the front-facing camera provides Windows Hello facial recognition in addition to the classic (and appreciated) ThinkPad fingerprint sensor on the wrist rest.

Speaking of which, Lenovo is really pushing the X12’s security capabilities. That fingerprint reader features Lenovo’s hardware-accelerated Match-on-Sensor technology for isolating your fingerprint data from the rest of the system and thus from hacking. There’s a manual ThinkShutter privacy switch for the webcam. And the X12’s BIOS is self-healing, which prevents you from accidentally bricking the device if a firmware update fails while helping to prevent corruption and attacks.

Internally, you’ll find modern componentry as well. This includes 11th-generation Intel Core processors with Iris Xe graphics, up to 16 GB of LPDDR4x RAM, and up to 1 TB of PCIe NVMe solid-state storage. It features Intel Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 chipsets, it and can optionally be had with LTE/4G cellular connectivity as well, as God intended.

Expandability is about as expected for such a device. There are no classic ports, but the X12 comes with 1 Thunderbolt 4 port, 1 USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, and … and … OK, that’s all there is. There is a headphone jack, of course, a nano-SIM slot, and a Kensington lock slot as well.

There’s no word on expected battery life, so I’ll need to test that. The X12 has a 42 watt-hour battery and it ships with that same new-ish 65-watt power supply I first saw on the ThinkPad Fold (and like quite a bit).

The trick here, of course, is the price. A Core i3 model with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage starts at just under $1100, and that does include the folio keyboard cover. You could spend up to $1665 for a fully decked-out system, and it looks like the review unit configuration—Core i5-1103G7, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of storage, would set you back about $1400.

More soon.

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  • ibmthink

    09 March, 2021 - 5:49 pm

    <p>Small correction: 1920 x 1280 is a 3:2 resolution – the equivalent 16:10 resolution is 1920 x 1200. Like the older X1 Tablet, this one has a 3:2 aspect ratio, just with a lower screen res.</p>

    • sevenacids

      10 March, 2021 - 7:46 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617307">In reply to ibmthink:</a></em></blockquote><p>It actually depends on the physical dimensions of the panel. Pixels don't necessarily need to be square. Unfortunately, there is no information about this on the Lenovo shop website, but I hope you are right about the 3:2 aspect ratio.</p>

      • ibmthink

        11 March, 2021 - 4:26 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#617374">In reply to sevenacids:</a></em></blockquote><p>Google "<span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">ThinkPad X12 PSREF spec sheet</span>" – it explicitly states the 3:2 aspect ratio.</p>

      • waethorn

        11 March, 2021 - 3:33 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#617374">In reply to sevenacids:</a></em></blockquote><p>Pixels have been square for all monitors starting with VGA, and all flat-panel TV's and HD resolutions. They haven't been non-square since NTSC or PAL was supplanted by HD.</p>

  • digiguy

    Premium Member
    09 March, 2021 - 6:09 pm

    <p>It's sad that after having moved to 13in with their thinkpad tablet they are now back at 12.3… Sure, the 13in was heavier, but HP had moved to that size too without increasing the weight. Interestingly, HP now has both the 13in and 12.3 version…. (with the same name…)</p><p>Personally I moved from a surface pro 3 to the original HP Ellite X2 for 3 reasons, the much better keyboard , the fanless design and LTE. 2 of 3 of these points have been solved with the pro 7+, but the keyboard is still much inferior in the surface pro to both the HP and the Thinkpad one…</p>

  • joeaxberg

    Premium Member
    09 March, 2021 - 6:36 pm

    <p>I was starting to wonder if this form factor had died off outside of Surface. This unit looks solid. </p><p><br></p><p>Why the Intel and Windows stickers though? I just don't get it.</p><p><br></p><p>I mean why stop there? Intel CPU Sticker, Intel Graphics Sticker, Windows 10 Sticker, Chipotle Sticker for 10% off your next online order if you use your Thinkpad….</p><p><br></p><p>Wait, maybe that isn't such a bad sticker.</p>

    • djross95

      Premium Member
      09 March, 2021 - 7:41 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#617323"><em>In reply to joeaxberg:</em></a><em> </em>I hate those damn things, cheapens the entire experience for me. Except for the Chipotle sticker that is… 🙂 <em> </em></blockquote><p><br></p>

      • jdawgnoonan

        Premium Member
        09 March, 2021 - 9:56 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#617325">In reply to djross95:</a></em></blockquote><p>I am with you, I hate the damned stickers. "Average processor insdide", as if anyone gives a damn. </p>

    • CRoebuck

      Premium Member
      10 March, 2021 - 2:37 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617323">In reply to joeaxberg:</a></em></blockquote><p>Maybe if they could at least get them aligned better? Having the bottom edges in a straight line can't be too difficult right?</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      10 March, 2021 - 8:53 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617323">In reply to joeaxberg:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yes, I always spend the "first start experience" removing the stickers, while I wait for it to complete.</p><p>At least the Intel ones are better than they used to be. You used to have to use some sort of chemical cleaner to get the glue off the case! The new ones seem to just lift off (although I've had a couple dig under my finger nails and cut the skin).</p>

  • djross95

    Premium Member
    09 March, 2021 - 7:42 pm

    <p>Wow, this thing looks fabulous! Picking this over the Surface Pro is a no-brainer –at least at this point in time. </p>

  • hrlngrv

    Premium Member
    09 March, 2021 - 8:47 pm

    <p>Given my Excel keyboard habits, the product of working with it since the 1980s, 6 navigation keys plus a joystick mouse makes this look really interesting. So much so that I have to wonder how truly great computing could be if I could mix this ThinkPad keyboard with some other tablet which might have a better screen.</p><p>However, in common with nearly all laptop reviews on this site, no GOOD picture of the right side of the keyboard.</p>

  • eeisner

    Premium Member
    09 March, 2021 - 8:59 pm

    <p>"<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">If you’re a 2-in-1 fan who is tired of waiting for Microsoft to get its Surface Pro act together, Lenovo may have just the PC for you."</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">I see this very differently. Wasn't the goal of the Surface lineup to get OEMs to get their crap together and start making high quality machines without pissing off the OEMs? I think Microsoft and Surface have 100% succeeded in this goal, at least with this specific form-factor, and them pulling back and letting OEMs take the lead is not only totally fine, but probably what they want. And I say this as a Surface lover – my SL2 is the best laptop I've ever owned. Glad to see Lenovo put out such a high quality 2-in-1.</span></p>

    • hrlngrv

      Premium Member
      10 March, 2021 - 5:13 am

      <p><a href="https://www.thurrott.com/mobile/247967/lenovo-thinkpad-x12-first-impressions#617333&quot; target="_blank"><em>In reply to eeisner:</em></a></p><p>To be fair to some OEMs, Lenovo's upper end ThinkPads and Dell's Precision line have been high-end machines for decades. They didn't sell in big numbers because they're EXPENSIVE. Granted consumers in OECD countries want more than a half dozen versions of low end crap to choose from, but the days of PCs costing more than a week long cruise are dead and gone.</p><p>It does seem to be the case that most (certainly over 80%, probably over 90%, possibly over 95%) of PC buyers have little interest in tablet PCs with keyboard covers like MSFT provides for Surface Pros.</p>

  • wunderbar

    Premium Member
    09 March, 2021 - 9:48 pm

    <p>The fact that the description of the pen loop was a simple throwaway line instead of an entire article by itself is…. disappointing. </p>

    • jchampeau

      Premium Member
      10 March, 2021 - 7:16 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617334">In reply to wunderbar:</a></em></blockquote><p>The headline should have been "Lenovo Pen Loop with included ThinkPad X12 First Impressions"</p>

  • RobertJasiek

    09 March, 2021 - 10:06 pm

    <p>What does a self-healing UEFI mean in practice? Is the UEFI bug-free? Otherwise, if Lenovo needs to update the UEFI, then how does it distinguish between legitimate update allowing breaking of the self-healing concept and hacking undone by self-healing? Does all this include microcode?</p>

    • ibmthink

      10 March, 2021 - 5:43 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617336">In reply to RobertJasiek:</a></em></blockquote><p>A couple of years ago Lenovo had an issue of BIOS bricking with the ThinkPad X1 Extreme – I think self-healing BIOS is supposed to address this, as well as prevent BIOS updates bricking the machine (which also occasionally happens).</p>

  • matsan

    Premium Member
    10 March, 2021 - 1:43 am

    <p>I have always loved the 16:10 aspect ratio. 4:3 would be my second choice but I haven't seen a computer or monitor with that for a decade.</p>

  • RobertJasiek

    10 March, 2021 - 1:59 am

    <p>@matsan, Eizo offers 4:3, 5:4, 1:1 monitors.</p>

    • hrlngrv

      Premium Member
      10 March, 2021 - 5:23 am

      <p><a href="https://www.thurrott.com/mobile/247967/lenovo-thinkpad-x12-first-impressions#617342&quot; target="_blank"><em>In reply to RobertJasiek:</em></a></p><p>All I could find at 4:3 were some CRTs at 800×600. Returning to monitor technology of the early 1990s may not be for most people. As for their 1:1 monitors, I figure you mean the 2048×2048 ones. No price shown. Just a <em>Contact Us</em> link. That almost certainly means that particular monitor costs into US$ 4-figures.</p>

      • RobertJasiek

        10 March, 2021 - 6:35 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#617360">In reply to hrlngrv:</a></em></blockquote><p>When I checked a few years ago, 5:4 had 1280×1024 and 4:3 had 1600:1200 or lower. Right, not modern. I have to live with that because I absolutely prefer these ratios. 1:1 they offered for ca. €1000 then, which is a fair price for such a specialised product with intermediate density, but I do not know their current prices.</p>

  • madthinus

    Premium Member
    10 March, 2021 - 4:10 am

    <p>How real PC manufactures ships products, with latest generation processors. </p>

  • pmeinl

    Premium Member
    10 March, 2021 - 6:49 am

    <p>I would be nice it someone could test the usability of the TrackPoint of the X12. I always loved using TP TrackPoints but the one on my X1 Tablet gen 3, which is similar to the X12, is way too stiff to use – even at the fastest settings. I assume this comes from it being very shallow to avoid scratching the screen when folded.</p>

  • crunchyfrog

    Premium Member
    10 March, 2021 - 7:25 am

    <p>Compelling device, especially with its inclusion of the keyboard and pen. I however, am far more interested in the Lenovo X1 Nano which is a more traditional laptop form factor and is on sale right now. </p>

  • sevenacids

    10 March, 2021 - 7:43 am

    <p>The Lenovo Shop lists battery life with up to 10.18 hours (42 Wh), according to MobileMark 2018.</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      10 March, 2021 - 9:31 am

      Lenovo usually provides reviewers with more data than that, but this time there was nothing.

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    10 March, 2021 - 8:32 am

    <p><em>the X12 has anachronistically large bezels. I was a bit surprised by that.</em></p><p>Given that the X12 is designed to be held in the hand, without a keyboard, I would assume the thicker bezels than a pure laptop are a design restriction to the hand-held mode.</p>

    • christianwilson

      Premium Member
      10 March, 2021 - 9:50 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#617375">In reply to wright_is:</a></em></blockquote><p>I use a Surface at the office as my secondary, portable PC. I had a Surface Go but switched to a Surface Pro X. The Pro X is better for me in every way except those thin bezels. They cause me to accidentally touch the screen too often, which was not something that happened with my Surface Go. </p>

      • tghallin

        Premium Member
        10 March, 2021 - 1:50 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#617390">In reply to christianwilson:</a></em></blockquote><p>I have a Surface Pro, a Samsung Tab S6 and an HP Spectre 360. When used as a tablet, the HP's 1/8" side bezels are too small (too many accidental touches). The Tab S6 has 3/8" bezels which never result in an accidental touch. The Surface Pro has 1/2" bezels, which are bigger than needed. I wonder where the X12 fits in this comparison.</p>

  • earlster

    Premium Member
    10 March, 2021 - 1:54 pm

    <p>How hard, or costly, will it be to replace the battery, how repairable is it? That's my #1 question for me after my SP4 experiences.</p>

  • caspar

    11 March, 2021 - 6:18 am

    <p>Sounds great, BUT Lenovo's attitude to battery life puts me off buying this.</p><p>For the last three years I've used a Lenovo X1 Yoga (2nd gen). It would be a truly fantastic machine except real world battery life is typically under 2 hours. And has been since day 1. This completely cripples it as a laptop and would be even more frustrating in a tablet form factor.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      11 March, 2021 - 8:55 am

      Sorry, what’s Lenovo’s “attitude” about battery life? 🙂

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